Out of curiosity , In your shops respectively, what are some customer requests that you absolutely cannot/ will not comply with?

Do you make a 20 oz caramel breve with whip?

Do you pull a long shot?

Do you make a 200?

do you Ice the espresso or serve it to go?

Which rules are yours personally , which ones are store policy?

I've got a few of these myself but I would really like to hear from some others.

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Steve

My pet peeve as well!
We do a farmers market and I'd say at least 80% of our customers who ask us to grind their coffee have a grinder at home, that they just don't use! They have many excuses and know that grinding fresh is the way to go, but are just too lazy when it comes down to it!
That why so many people have moved to K-cups and pod machines! My Biggest Annoyance!! And the scourge of our industry.
There is a “slow food movement” and the coffee industry should become a part of this.


Steve Belt said:
There's one thing I wish I would say no to, but don't: Grind whole bean coffee to go. I have a tough time turning away the sale to a customer that doesn't have or want to grind coffee at home. If I were the purist I aspire to be, I'd flat say no.

Instead, I really need to stock some grinder options for sale in the shop, so I can sell whole bean coffee and a grinder, even if I don't make a nickel on the grinder (though that's foolish).
Relate it to uncorking a bottle of wine for someone, that normally helps paint a clearer picture. Tell them,

"If you had a corkscrew at home, you wouldn't have me uncork a bottle for you, would you? This is along the same lines. Once coffee is ground it looses 60% of it's aromatics in 15 minutes... 15. Your coffee will be 60% less exciting by the time you get home."

-bry
If someone comes into my shop and asks to have a $14 twelve oz bag of 84+ coffee within a week of roast date ground for them, we'll happily do it. That's pretty much the only coffee we carry. Why would I even think of saying no?

So what if the ground coffee isn't in the most pristine, pure state when the customer opens that bag tomorrow morning? It's still going to taste far better than what they could buy at my local competition. Once they get used to having it every morning, they'll be hooked in short time and come back for more.

What's next, only selling whole bean if the customer can prove they have at least a Vario for the sake of being a purist?

We don't stock grinders. We used to until it became clear we were sinking a ton of working capital into product with very slow turnover. We have a short list of grinders we recommend and a list of online sources with the best prices for them.

Hell, we don't even have a problem recommending the customer buys a cheap blade grinder if they're using a filter drip method and that's what they can afford (we'll recommend a hand grinder if they use a press pot and can't swing a burr grinder, or sell them a Clever dripper). We'll give them suggestions on agitation and dwell time to improve what that blade can deliver. But we think it would be silly to suggest the customer has to drop $200 on a burr grinder before they can buy coffee from us.

As long as we're responding, we will also happily make a 10oz cappuccino. Ratios are the same. Hell, you can even find that drink in Italy. But flavor a cappuccino? That's a gas station drink. We'll make a latte instead (noting that in watching barista competitions, the distinction between latte and cappuccino seems to have all but disappeared). Espresso over ice? Not exactly - but we'll do a Shakerato.


Steve Belt said:
There's one thing I wish I would say no to, but don't: Grind whole bean coffee to go. I have a tough time turning away the sale to a customer that doesn't have or want to grind coffee at home. If I were the purist I aspire to be, I'd flat say no.
Instead, I really need to stock some grinder options for sale in the shop, so I can sell whole bean coffee and a grinder, even if I don't make a nickel on the grinder (though that's foolish).
Rich,

As James Hoffman wrote (on a thread you participated in) in his blog,"A couple of people seemed borderline outraged at the suggestion that they actually had to grind their coffee just before brewing to get a fresh cup. I asked if they had a pepper mill. They said yes. I asked if they used it and if they considered it worthwhile. They said they did, and I tried not to flog a dead horse."

James nailed a perfect analogy.

We rarely have anyone ask if we have ground coffee. I think I've had maybe three people ask this year, and two of them bought grinders on the spot. The third came back a couple of days later and said they were borrowing a grinder from their sister because they had to throw away the coffee they bought from another local shop.

As I wrote on my blog two weeks ago, "...Coffee should always be sold fresh-roasted, and whole bean. Quality is not an inconvenience."

I say, look to the heavens with demitasse on outstretched hand and as the light glistens off of your rusted chiffon crema, ask WWSD? "What Would Schomer Do?" - Whole bean only, of course.
Could not be put in any better words John.

John P said:
Rich,

As James Hoffman wrote (on a thread you participated in) in his blog,"A couple of people seemed borderline outraged at the suggestion that they actually had to grind their coffee just before brewing to get a fresh cup. I asked if they had a pepper mill. They said yes. I asked if they used it and if they considered it worthwhile. They said they did, and I tried not to flog a dead horse."

James nailed a perfect analogy.

We rarely have anyone ask if we have ground coffee. I think I've had maybe three people ask this year, and two of them bought grinders on the spot. The third came back a couple of days later and said they were borrowing a grinder from their sister because they had to throw away the coffee they bought from another local shop.

As I wrote on my blog two weeks ago, "...Coffee should always be sold fresh-roasted, and whole bean. Quality is not an inconvenience."

I say, look to the heavens with demitasse on outstretched hand and as the light glistens off of your rusted chiffon crema, ask WWSD? "What Would Schomer Do?" - Whole bean only, of course.
John,
We probably grind 15% of our retail whole bean. I can flat our guarantee some of those customers simply can't afford a burr grinder at this point (surprised some can actually afford coffee!). I'm not turning those people away, regardless of what Schomer may think (and he couldn't succeed on our street with 1/3 oz shots).

Here's where Schomer is right: He's often said that if one is going to do what he does, they have to choose their location accordingly - urban/foodie.

Needless to say, we didn't do that in choosing our space. We're in an uptight 'burb. So flexibility and gaining customer trust is how we have to operate. Once we have them, we can move them toward our ideal. But if we turn them away because they don't have a grinder, it's simply another Yelp review on how precious and pretentious we are. And we have enough of those already, deserving or not.

And I think that applies to a lot more coffeehouses than us.

As far as James goes, I respect him dearly and agree with just about everything the guy has ever said. But it's one thing to offer up a peppermill analogy and another to watch revenue walk out the door because our recommended peppermills are $200. Our customers certainly get the analogy. We're ok letting them decide how important that is to them.


John P said:
Rich,

As James Hoffman wrote (on a thread you participated in) in his blog,"A couple of people seemed borderline outraged at the suggestion that they actually had to grind their coffee just before brewing to get a fresh cup. I asked if they had a pepper mill. They said yes. I asked if they used it and if they considered it worthwhile. They said they did, and I tried not to flog a dead horse."

James nailed a perfect analogy.

We rarely have anyone ask if we have ground coffee. I think I've had maybe three people ask this year, and two of them bought grinders on the spot. The third came back a couple of days later and said they were borrowing a grinder from their sister because they had to throw away the coffee they bought from another local shop.

As I wrote on my blog two weeks ago, "...Coffee should always be sold fresh-roasted, and whole bean. Quality is not an inconvenience."

I say, look to the heavens with demitasse on outstretched hand and as the light glistens off of your rusted chiffon crema, ask WWSD? "What Would Schomer Do?" - Whole bean only, of course.
Rich,
and to all BX'ers out there with shops like Rich and I have, it's important to stop in and see us to understand what it is like in a not so optimal location. Our doors have been open for going on two years come September.
My experience here mirrors what Rich just said. Stop in and check us out and you may have a better understanding of our customer base and what it takes to grow them.

Rich Westerfield said:
John,
We probably grind 15% of our retail whole bean. I can flat our guarantee some of those customers simply can't afford a burr grinder at this point (surprised some can actually afford coffee!). I'm not turning those people away, regardless of what Schomer may think (and he couldn't succeed on our street with 1/3 oz shots).

Here's where Schomer is right: He's often said that if one is going to do what he does, they have to choose their location accordingly - urban/foodie.

Needless to say, we didn't do that in choosing our space. We're in an uptight 'burb. So flexibility and gaining customer trust is how we have to operate. Once we have them, we can move them toward our ideal. But if we turn them away because they don't have a grinder, it's simply another Yelp review on how precious and pretentious we are. And we have enough of those already, deserving or not.

And I think that applies to a lot more coffeehouses than us.

As far as James goes, I respect him dearly and agree with just about everything the guy has ever said. But it's one thing to offer up a peppermill analogy and another to watch revenue walk out the door because our recommended peppermills are $200. Our customers certainly get the analogy. We're ok letting them decide how important that is to them.


John P said:
Rich,

As James Hoffman wrote (on a thread you participated in) in his blog,"A couple of people seemed borderline outraged at the suggestion that they actually had to grind their coffee just before brewing to get a fresh cup. I asked if they had a pepper mill. They said yes. I asked if they used it and if they considered it worthwhile. They said they did, and I tried not to flog a dead horse."

James nailed a perfect analogy.

We rarely have anyone ask if we have ground coffee. I think I've had maybe three people ask this year, and two of them bought grinders on the spot. The third came back a couple of days later and said they were borrowing a grinder from their sister because they had to throw away the coffee they bought from another local shop.

As I wrote on my blog two weeks ago, "...Coffee should always be sold fresh-roasted, and whole bean. Quality is not an inconvenience."

I say, look to the heavens with demitasse on outstretched hand and as the light glistens off of your rusted chiffon crema, ask WWSD? "What Would Schomer Do?" - Whole bean only, of course.
I'm honestly shocked that anyone would suggest refusing to sell ground coffee.

No one here argues the merits of fresh-ground coffee, but I mean come on people. If I sold fine china and a customer requested that I smash a vase with a sledge hammer before selling it to them, I would ring them up, smash the vase with a sledge hammer, and then wish them a good day.

Educate your customers, then do whatever the heck they ask you to do. People don't usually come back when you turn your nose up at them.
Ummm... just so we are clear:

NO ONE said they wouldn't sell ground coffee, only that they didn't like it.

Pay attention.

I stand hard behind my corkscrew analogy... you wouldn't have your sommelier pop the cork just because "Oh it hurts my wrist to do it at home, would you pop the cork for me?"

Or how about a purchase at the super market... "Excuse me, would you cook this steak for me? I have a grill at home, but I'd rather not have to do it. Would you cook it for me so I can just heat it up later?"

People are pathetically lazy.

Rich you are jumping to a lot of conclusions and placing words where they do not belong. No one said that it had to be a Vario. No one said it had to be a $200 burr grinder. Hell, no one even said it had to be a burr grinder.

Yesterday I had a couple come in and eventually we got around to the grinder conversation. I suggested what I always do, "Just doing drip and french press? Get this..." as I show them a picture of a $70 refurbished Baratza Maestro. If they seem shocked by a $70 price tag then I tell them to pick up a cheapy blade grinder while they save.

I think a lot of the time we fail to inform our customers why they need to grind their own coffee. Again, I'll throw the number out there:

60% of a coffee's aromatics are lost in 15 minutes after grinding.

For me it lines up a little differently when selling ground coffee to a customer. Sometimes I work with a customer for 10-15 minutes presenting different coffees (we do lots of sampling with curious customers). If I talk about, "Juicy red fruit with cucumber sweetness and little bits of grilled pineapple" and they start to see light of that when tasting the sample I've prepared for them, I want them to taste that at home too. There's no way that's going to happen if I grind it a day before they brew it.

When someone asks, "Will you grind that for me?" I simply reply, "Absolutely, but I'd rather not. It's going to taste worse this way."

That simple line usually opens up a fabulous conversation about the importance of grinding fresh before brewing.

It's about clear communication. Once you have clearly explained why it's important, and have made the purchase seem like an exciting upgrade not a burdensome chore, most people look forward to purchasing a grinder.

2 of our locations are in the 'burbs. It's strange, but in our 'burbs fresh ground still tastes better than pre-ground... hmm? =)

Your geographical location shouldn't dictate your approach to education and quality.

-bry
I couldn't agree more.

Bryan Wray said:
It's about clear communication. Once you have clearly explained why it's important, and have made the purchase seem like an exciting upgrade not a burdensome chore, most people look forward to purchasing a grinder.
I have a gentlemen who comes in everyday and orders a 20 oz capp with only 2 shots espresso and no foam. I have mentioned to him several times that a cappuccino is a specific drink, he does not seem to care so everyday I sell him a $4.00 large capp with no foam. He must like all that milk and not like a lot of coffee flavor. Would i drink it no and I could correct him everyday until he gets tired of me telling him it is not a cappuccino and finds somewhere else to go where they don't correct him. but I need all the customers I can get so instead of correcting him I smile and sell it proudly because he must like it that way or he would not be back.
Bryan Wray said:
I stand hard behind my corkscrew analogy... 60% of a coffee's aromatics are lost in 15 minutes after grinding.


Bry, I think that GMTA, but I am on that beer budget.
I suggest that they don't open a sixer at the checkout counter, they keep the CO2 in it until they are ready to drink it. So why 'open' the bean before they're ready to drink it? I also equate the beans to produce. It is kinda what they are...
Babbie' Rule Fifteens* was basically invented for these folk. "If you're going to spend a premium on fresh roasted coffee, why ruin it by grinding it and letting it stale in the bag before you use it?

* Babbie's Rule of Fifteens:
Green beans last fifteen months;
Roasted beans last fifteen days;
Ground beans last fifteen minutes;
Extracted beans last fifteen seconds.

While there is a bit of sway one way or another depending on beans and environment, it's fairly accurate +/- 10%-ish.

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